Civil War: The Biggest Differences Between the Comics and the Movie
From writer Mark Millar and artists Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell and Chris Eliopoulos the Marvel crossover event of 2006 was “Civil War”. The event comic delivered the customary amount of universe-altering status-quo shifts that set up an exciting new direction for much of Marvel’s on-going books (at least until the next crossover). But what sets Civil War apart from most cross-title events is it’s deep dive into the philosophy and motivations of Marvel’s biggest heroes, it then uses that to pit them against each other. All in all, over a decade later Civil War stands out as one of Marvel’s best crossover events and led to a movie adaptation in 2016. The third Captain America movie, Captain America: Civil War used only some of the basis from the Civil War comic book and combined it with a number of other Captain America-centric storylines. In Civil War: The Biggest Differences Between the Comics and the Movie we’re taking a look at the biggest and best differences we noticed.
The Registration Act vs The Sokovia Accords
In the MCU’s adaption of Civil War, the UN agrees on the ‘Sokovia Accords’ a document that aims to make The Avengers a sanctioned UN response team. Steve Rogers sees this as a problem and questions the politics behind when and where they would be used.This brings with it a fascinating concept and some real growth for Captain America, as the former Soldier is the one to question orders and refuses to accept a seemingly unified (at least on this issue) global governing body.
In the comics, it is the Civil War is over “The Superhero Registration Act” rather than the Sokovia Accords. The main difference between them is that in the comics superheroes are required to register their secret identities with the US government. At this point in the MCU, almost no superhero had any kind of secret identity (other than some obvious examples like Spider-Man), and so that element had to be altered.Similarly, a large part of the Registration Act is ensuring that superheroes have the correct training, and can thus be held accountable, like other emergency service response teams.
Although the specifics are different, Captain America’s protests are still similar in both versions, as he is concerned with people giving up their choice on when and where they act. The Registration Act is also strictly a US program in the comics, and not backed by the UN.
In the movie, the main reason behind introducing the Sokovia Accords is the consequences of The Avengers previous actions. William Hurt’s Defense Secretary Ross shows footage from The Avengers battle against Loki and the Chitauri in New York (as seen in 2012’s The Avengers), Captain America’s confrontation with HYDRA in Washington D.C (from 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier), The Avengers fight against Ultron in Sokovia (in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron), and the events from Lagos as seen at the beginning of Civil War
Ross states that the repeated damage and causalities, a lack of accountability, and not knowing the location of two highly powerful beings like Thor and Hulk (which he compares to Nuclear missiles) are just some of the reasons why the UN feels there needs to be more accountability for the Avengers actions. In the comics, the main reason for bringing the Superhero Registration Act into law, or at least the final straw, is the public backlash against the New Warriors.
The New Warriors were a team of young, inexperienced, heroes made up from Night Thrasher, Namorita, Speedball and Microbe. The team is caught on camera attempting to capture some villains that are much too powerful for them, simply for better ratings on their reality tv show. The fight results in Nitro, a fire powered supervillain, blowing up the surrounding area which includes a school, and killing between eight hundred and nine hundred people (the New Warriors amongst them).
In the comic Goliath mentions that Hulk destroying Las Vegas (in Fantastic Four #533) and Wolverine threatening to kill the president (thanks to some HYDRA tampering) added to the problem, but the New Warriors pushed public option over the edge, and against the superhero community.
The Public Backlash and Confronting Tony
In the movie, a large part of Tony’s dedication to enforcing the Sokovia Accords is thanks to his cult over the events of Avengers Age of Ultron. Tony is confronted by the grieving mother of an American volunteer who was killed during Ultron’s attempt to destroy the planet in Sokovia. The mother hands Tony a picture of her son and asks who will Avenge him.
In the comics, a very similar scene plays out, but with a different setting, and a very different public mentality. The grieving mother, Miriam Sharpe, confronts Tony at the mass funeral for the victims of the explosion and plays a key role throughout the story as a public supporter of the Registration Act. Similarly, the public sentiment toward superheroes changes dramatically in the comics, The Human Torch is attacked and nearly beaten to death outside of night-club by regular citizens, as they begin to blame all superhero’s for the incident.
Captain America’s Storyline
As Civil War is partway between Avengers 2.5 and Captain America 3, it spends a lot of time dealing with the fallout from both Avengers Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the film, Steve Rogers is hesitant to sign the Sokovia Accords thanks to his recent experiences with S.H.I.E.L.D, who were revealed to be mostly HYDRA agents.
In the comics, however, S.H.I.E.L.D is still around and Captain America is a prime example of what the Registration Act wants to encourage; a highly trained government agent deployed on precise missions. But Captain America rebels against the Registration Act, after predicting it would split the superhero community, as he sees it as stopping heroic volunteers form helping people, in much the same way he does in the movie.
The main difference is that the main Civil War comic book doesn’t incorporate any of the Winter Soldier storylines, Peggy Carter’s death or the reveal of Bucky killing the Starks, and Steve and Sharon Carter are already dating (whereas they have their first kiss in the movie).
As the comics aren’t beholden to the various rights issues and licensing deals that their on-screen counterparts are, a much wider cast of Marvel characters is involved in the Civil War. Iron Man’s team is headed by himself, Reed Richards a.k.a Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four and Hank Pym (who isn’t as old as the MCU’s version and is later revealed to be a Skrull imposter). Captain America’s team become a fully-fledged “Secret Avengers” and operate out of several secret S.H.I.E.L.D bases across New York, whereas in the movie they are on the run with Bucky whilst trying to protect him and prove his innocence.
The comic book pro-registration team includes Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Yellow Jacket, Wasp, Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Doc Samson, and Ms Marvel (Carol Danvers). Captain America’s anti-registration “Secret Avengers” includes himself, Hercules, Falcon, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Goliath, Cable, the Young Avengers, and as the Civil War goes on gains the support of The Punisher, Vision, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch and Spider-Man.
Both the movie version and comic book version of Civil War have a large thread revolving around Spider-Man, but the two are extremely different. In the comics, Peter Parker starts out on Iron Man’s side and in a shocking move reveals his secret identity to the world. But After Tony recruits villains to help capture the Secret Avengers, and Peter sees the prison that unregistered heroes are being sent to, he switches to Captan America’s anti-registration side.
After Civil War the public reveal of his true identity leads to the assassination of Aunt May, and the eventual history-altering deal Peter has to make to bring her back, which results in erasing his marriage to MJ from continuity.
In the MCU, Civil War serves as the introduction of Peter Parker to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, thanks to an unprecedented deal between Sony and Marvel. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker only shows up in two scenes, one where Tony Stark recruits him, which also introduces Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, and the airport battle where Spider-Man meets a number of other iconic Marvel heroes, and he shows off how powerful he is.
It’s also notable that the film version shows Peter solidly on Tony’s side, but the MCU’s version of “with great power comes great responsibility”, which Peter explains to Tony as having to step in and help if you are able to, is basically Captain America’s argument against the Sokovia Accords.
The Hulk and Thor
Both Hulk and Thor are absent from the movie and comic book Civil War storylines, although Iron Man and Reed Richards come up with a plan to make it appear as though Thor has joined Iron Man’s team, at least for a short while. After a trap set by Iron Man Thor seemingly arrives and mercilessly fights off Captain America’s team. Thor doesn’t seem to recognise anyone and eventually murders William Foster a.k.a Goliath.
Following the fight this Thor is revealed to be a cyborg clone of the real Thor created by Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Richards is later able to ‘perfect’ the copy (by ensuring it won’t kill), but the robot version of the God of Thunder proves no match for an enraged Hercules.
Black Panther, Storm, and Wakanda
The movie version of Civil War introduces Spider-Man, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther as well. The movie combines the Civil War story with the murder of King T’Chaka, and his son T’Challa’s ascension to the throne. Black Panther is then set on hunting down Bucky Barnes who he believes is responsible for his father’s death.
In the comics, Black Panther is already a well-established superhero by the events of Civil War and rules Wakanda alongside his wife Ororo Munroe, better known as the mutant and X-Men team member, Storm. In the comics, T’Challa initially refuses to join either side of the conflict, as it is a US matter and he aims to keep Wakanda neutral. He and Storm eventually join Captain America’s anti-registration side after the death of Goliath.
In the MCU Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Strange didn’t debut until after Civil War, and so didn’t play a part in the adaptation. Although that is very similar to his role in the comics. There he explains to the Watcher, a being who appears at momentous events of great importance, that he will take no part in either side of the Civil War as each is simply a matter of perspective, and in the grand scheme of things there is no right or wrong.
With Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox the on-screen rights to characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four will revert back to Marvel, and allow those iconic characters to appear in the MCU. The X-Men, along with Spider-Man, paved the way to the modern-day superhero movie obsession, and despite a fully-fledged franchise of their own will undoubtedly be rebooted to join the MCU.
The behind the scenes complications stopped any X-Men appearing in Civil War, but that mostly fits with their role in the comics, aside from Cable, who was a prominent part of Captain America’s team.
Similar to Doctor Strange the X-Men, fresh from their own world-ending events, decide to stay neutral in the superhero Civil War as long as they are in-tun left alone. This is in spite of Tony Starks attempts to sway his former lover Emma Frost who was at that point in charge of Xavier’s School.
Despite staying neutral publicly, a number of X-Men backed the anti-registration side, and Wolverine hunted down Nitro, the villain responsible for the explosion that began the whole Civil War in the first place.
Namor and Atlantis
Just like Black Panther, Namor initially refused to join the fight, claiming surface conflicts bother him as much as the tides concern humans. Namor refuses to help either side even after the death of Namorita in the initial explosion (who was a clone of his cousin Namora) and the request for help from his old flame, Sue Storm.
Namor eventually joined the final fight to help Captain America. On-screen the rights for Namor are uncertain, as he is technically classed as ‘the first mutant’ so may have gone back to Marvel during the Fox buy-out, but other rumours explain that the rights belong to Universal (who also hold the Hulk solo-film rights), so whether he could appear in a similar manner to Hulk, or not at all in unclear.
The Fantastic Four
Unlike Doctor Strange and the X-Men who mostly stay out of the Civil War or Black Panther and Namor who initially refuses but join later, the Fantastic Four play a huge role throughout Civil War.
Soon after the explosion, Jonny Storm is attacked whilst out on a date and nearly beaten to death, showing the state of public opinion towards superheroes. Reed Richards is then key among the heroes on the pro-registration side, helping Tony Stark and Hank Pym come up with as many solutions to the Civil War as possible. The Thing mostly stays out out the fight until the very end, but Sue Storm eventually leaves Reed and Iron Man’s side to help Captain America.
Sue decides her initial opinion was wrong and calls her husband a fascist. Her feelings aren’t helped by Reed’s obsession with his latest project and neglect for her and their children. Once Jonny recovers the two leave the Baxter Building to join Captain America’s Secret Avengers.
Admittedly Civil War is already a very busy film, but as the Fantastic Four play such an important role in the comics, how they could have fit into the MCU version (if the on-screen rights had allowed it) would have been very interesting.
In a move of desperation that the movie version doesn’t come anywhere near (and due to the death of most villains so far probably couldn’t attempt), the comic book version of Tony Stark recruits several villains as temporary enforcers of the government-backed Registration Act. He then uses them to hunt down the Secret Avengers. The villains that join Iron Man’s team include Venom, Jester, Jack O’Lantern, Bullseye, and Lady Deathstrike.
On-screen Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle debuted in Daredevil Season 2, which began streaming on Netflix around a month before Civil War was released. As the Netflix side of the MCU has only been loosely connected (and now may not count at all), it seemed unlikely that The Punisher would make the jump from Netflix to the main movie universe, especially given how his role in the comics wouldn’t fit with the MCU Version.
In the comics The Punisher helps Captain America’s team without them knowing, but once Iron Man recruits villains Frank Castle decides to take an active role. He starts by saving Spider-Man from being murdered by Jack O’Lantern and Jester (by shooting them both in the head). He then joins Captain America’s team until he kills even more villains and Steve Rogers kicks him off the team. As Iron Man doesn’t recruit any villains in the on-screen version this version of the Punisher wouldn’t work too well in the MCU, that and Captain America has killed plenty of people in the movies, so that isn’t something he could hold against Frank Castle.
The Next Stage
Whereas the MCU has Tony Stark trying to ensure the Avengers’ participation in the UN-backed Sokovia Accords, the comic book version shows him leading the charge and trying to enact a number of solutions to improve the world. In the comics, the Registration Act is only one part of Tony, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym’s plan. The next step is a fully trained, qualified, and action superhero team in each American state.
Each state would select their team, and after the proper training the heroes will be fully accountable to each state’s laws and government. Reed Richards describes it as “decentralising this community from a single coast and building a super-power for the twenty-first century”. He believes it will allow superheroes, and more specifically geniuses like himself, Tony, and Hank Pym to focus on bigger picture problems like world poverty, and less on Super-villains.
This side to the Registration Act and Civil War is fascinating, and really backs up Tony’s dedication and overall vision, but could have been a distraction from the movie version which is already full to the brim with characters and motivations.
The Final Fight and Cap’s Surrenders
In the movie version of Civil War, the final fight builds up from the reveal of who really killed Tony’s parents and ends with Captain America and Bucky Barnes on the run. The comic book Civil War ends with a climactic fight that begins in Iron Man’s new super-prison and is transported to the centre of New York.
The fight ends up destroying a huge part of the city and like in the film comes to a showdown between Captain America and Iron Man. As Captain America is about to strike a final (but likely not fatal) blow against Iron Man he is stopped by New York citizens, specifically a fireman, police officers and doctors – very intentionally real-world heroes. Captain America looks around at the damage caused and who stopped him. There he finally realises that Iron Man is on the public’s side and that he and his team were only fighting out of principle. As he surrenders his team asks why they are giving up as they were just about to win, Captain America replies “everything except the argument”. Steve Rogers gives up his shield and allows himself to be arrested.
Tony and S.H.I.E.L.D
The very end of the Civil War sees Tony Stark become Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. During a conversation with Miriam Sharpe (the grieving mother from the beginning of Civil War), he explains that the super-prison was only one of one hundred ideas he, Reed Richards, and Hank Pym thought up on the night of the explosion. And that being in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D makes carrying out the rest of those plans for a safer world even easier.